Softball wins ACC, still rolling

After wrapping up the regular season with five straight wins, the No. 14 softball team headed into the conference tournament having clinched the number one spot in the ACC. The Jackets finished strong in the regular season, as senior Tiffany Johnson pitched a perfect game to take the last game over Maryland.

This set the stage for the ACC tournament in Raleigh, NC, where Tech faced Virginia in the quarterfinals. The Jackets’ offense got to work early, scoring two runs in the first and adding one more an inning later. The pitching was effective as well, with sophomore Kristen Adkins and freshman Jessica Coan combining to hold the Cavaliers scoreless while allowing just four hits. Keyed by a leadoff homer by senior first baseman Whitney Haller, Tech added four more runs in the bottom of the fifth, putting the game out of reach and pushing them into the semifinal round to face Virginia Tech.

In that game, the Hokies struck first, putting up four runs in the first inning against senior Tiffany Johnson. Their lead lasted through three innings, but ended in the fourth as the Jackets’ offense exploded for eight runs to take a commanding lead. With Coan shutting down the Virginia Tech offense in relief, the Jackets got three RBI’s from three different players en route to beating the Hokies 14-4.

After the decisive comeback in the semifinal game, the Jackets headed into the finals to face Florida State. The first inning saw Tech take a three-run lead over the Seminoles, and those would be their only runs of the game. Florida State threatened in the bottom of the seventh, driving in one and loading the bases with just one out, but Tech’s defense saved the day. Seminole catcher Kaleigh Rafter hit a fly ball to center that Tech senior center fielder Blair Shimandle caught easily; Shimandle then fired home in time to prevent FSU’s Brittany Joseph from scoring, ending the game and the tournament. With the win, the Jackets earned their third ACC title in school history.

Having conquered the ACC in both regular season and tournament play, Tech earned the opportunity to host an NCAA regional at Mewborn Field. The Jackets faced Boston University in their first game, with neither team scoring until the sixth inning. The Terriers put one run on the board in the top of the inning, but the Jackets responded in the bottom of the inning with five runs of their own, three of which came on a three-run homer from Adkins. Tech’s defense held their ground in the top of the seventh to give them the first game of the Regional tournament.

For the second game, the Jackets went up against Auburn. After a rain delay of more than five hours that pushed the game’s start time to 6:30, the Tigers took an early lead with one run in the bottom of the first inning. Tech tied it up two innings later on a solo shot by redshirt junior Jen Yee. From there the Jackets took control, scoring three more the very next inning, including two on a home run by sophomore Jessica Weaver. Adkins held the Tigers’ offense to one run to land the Jackets a spot in the finals.

The final game of the Regional tournament pitted Tech against Boston University, giving the Terriers another shot at the rolling Jackets. The Jackets’ scoring started early, as they put up one run in the second and another in the third. Despite tying the game up on each of these occasions, BU was unable to build a lead. Tech drove in two more in the fifth and three in the bottom of the sixth after keeping the Terriers scoreless in the top of each of these innings, stretching their lead to five and putting the final score at 7-2. Yee led the Jackets’ offense, going 4-for-4 with three RBIs and two homers.

Another first will take place for Tech softball when the Jackets host a Super Regional from May 23-25. No. 3 Washington will head to Mewborn Field to square off against the Jackets in the best-of-three series, which will determine which team will move on to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series. The 44-11 Huskies defeated Massachusetts 6-1 in a five-hour, 15-inning battle to determine which team would advance to face the Jackets. The Huskies are led by junior pitcher Danielle Lawrie, who led the Pac-10 conference with 35 wins and an ERA of 0.86.